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201 4th Street SE
Room 108
Rochester, Mn 55904 (Map)

Phone: 507-328-2950
Fax: 507-328-2401

Mon-Fri 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Department Contacts


Land Use/Zoning Processes

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I. Land Use/Zoning Processes

B. Zoning Processes

Zoning regulations establish the way in which a property may be used, how large buildings can be constructed, where they may be situated on lots, as well as parking, landscaping and signage requirements. The City is divided into use zones so that regulations can be tailored to a particular type of use or location. Specialized types of districts are used to further accommodate specific uses on specific sites.


Whenever an individual who owns or has interest in a property wishes to change the zoning district that is applied to a property, or change the rules that apply to a zoning district, a rezoning or ordinance amendment action is required. A zoning district change may also require a Land Use Plan amendment.


Zoning actions can take a variety of forms:
  • A Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a development in which certain zoning regulations are altered in exchange for adherence to a plan that is reviewed and approved by the City Council. The City of Rochester no longer utilizes PUDs,but uses either an Incentive or Restrictive Development approach. Existing PUDs may be amended.
  • Special Districts are similar to PUDs, but have their own individual zoning ordinance requirements.
  • Zoning Ordinance Amendments involve either a change in the text of the zoning ordinance or changing the zoning district that is applied to a project. These can be initiated by the City or by a property owner. All zoning district arrangements must comply with the City's adopted land use plan. Therefore, in some cases, zoning district changes may also require land use plan amendments.
  • Incentive Developments are used when a specific use or development style exceeds intensities customarily allowed, but may provide environmental, safety, efficiency or social benefits to the community.
  • Restricted Developments may be used to allow a use or mixture of uses not normally allowed in a zoning district. Additional development restrictions, beyond normal zoning requirements, may be applied to allow a specific use to develop while assuring protection of public and private development goals.
  • Conditional Use Permits are special zoning approvals. In some cases, various uses may or may not be acceptable in a certain location because of impacts to adjoining properties or neighborhoods. In such cases a special review and approval process is necessary and may result in the application of certain conditions to the development to enhance compatibility.
  • Variances are a modification of certain zoning standards where a practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship results from enforcement of the zoning ordinance by the zoning administration.
  • Design Modifications are similar to variances, except that no demonstration of hardship is required. Instead, the applicant must demonstrate that little, if any, impact to surrounding properties, neighborhoods and the community, occurs.
  • Zoning Certificates are required for any change of use on a property and/or in an existing building.
  • Sign Permits are required before the construction alteration or erection of any sign.
  • Wetland Permits are required before any draining or filling of land, which qualifies as a wetland as defined by state and federal statutes.
  • Appeals are applied for by anyone who disagrees with or is affected by a decision made in the interpretation, administration, or enforcement of the zoning ordinance. 
  • Zoning District Amendments require review by staff and public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council (Type III, Phase II process).
  • Restricted Developments can fall into various categories, depending upon the type of use proposed. Type I and Type II designated uses require review by staff. Type II designations will also require review and/or hearing by the Planning Commission. Some restricted developments are categorized as Type III uses, requiring staff review and review by the Planning commission with a hearing before the City Council.
  • Incentive Development(only Type III, Phase II) and Preliminary Development Plan and Final Development Plan: Type III use designations are divided into a two-step process. The first step requires a Type III, Phase II process which involves a staff review and hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. The second step, a Type III, Phase III process requires staff review and review by the Planning Commission with a hearing before the City Council.
  • Conditional Use Permits procedures are also dependent upon use categories. Some uses require a Type II procedure, requiring staff review and Planning Commission review or hearing. Others are Type III, Phase I processes requiring staff review and hearing before the Planning Commission.
  • Minor PUD and Special District Amendments customarily require only administrative approval by staff (Type I process). More substantial amendments are Type II approvals, which require staff reviews and review or a hearing by the Planning Commission. New Special Districts require a Type III. Phase II procedure with staff review and hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.
  • Substantial PUD and Special District Amendments and Designations require Type III, Phase II processes that include staff review and hearings by the Planning Commission and City Council.
  • Variances are processed through a Type III, Phase I procedure with staff review and a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.
  • Design Modifications aka Type II, Zoning Certificates, Site Plan approvals, Sign Permits and Wetland Permits are processed as Type I approvals with staff review only.
  • Appeals are handled through a Type III, Phase I process with staff review and hearings held by the Planning Commission or City Council, depending upon the type of decision being appealed.
  • Submittal Requirements: (See Land Development Manual Informational Supplement for a more complete list.)
  • Special District Amendments, Incentive and Restricted Developments, Variances, Design Modification, and Conditional Use Permits require submittal of general information about the project, site information, site data, building information and additional information as may be required regarding grading and drainage plans, transportation, shared parking and site performance impacts, an application form and an application fee.
  • Zoning District Amendments require submittal of a map, legal description of the property, a description of the proposed zoning change, an application form and an application fee.
  • Zoning Certificates, Site Plan approvals, and Wetland Permits require submittal of a site survey, site plan, application form and fee, and wetlands, environmental and flood plain compliance as applicable.
  • Sign Permits require submittal of a site plan, sign and lighting plans, sign credit, and application form.
  • Appeals require submittal of identification of the decision to be reviewed, the applicants right to appeal and the specific ordinance provision involved, an application form and fee.
  • Submittal of a Traffic Impact Study is required for several development applications per Section 61.520-61.529 of the Rochester Zoning Ordinance and Land Development Manual.
Process Timings
  • Type I Process: Type II Process: 8 to 10 weeks
  • Zoning Certificate: 10 days Type III, Phase I Process: 7 to 9 weeks
  • Sign Permits: 5 days Type III, Phase II Process: 9 to 12 weeks
  • All Others: 7 to 20 days Type III, Phase III Process: 4 to 6 weeks
Note: All timing estimates are approximate and are dependent upon completeness of information submitted, complexity of staff review and actual timing of meeting dates.